A new campaign launched by hospitals across Ontario is putting pressure on political parties to invest more in children’s physical and mental health.

Michelle Durocher and her son Kierce live almost two hours away from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Kierce lives with a sensory processing disorder and makes multiple trips to CHEO each year.

“When I think of him, the first thing that comes to mind is resiliency,” Durocher said. “Considering he’s only 10 years old and the amount of stuff that he’s had to endure at his age, it’s pretty remarkable … how well he’s been able to hold it together.”

Durocher says her family needs a facility closer to home that can help Kierce when he needs it.

“Sometimes clothing feels uncomfortable,” Kierce says. “And that’s one of the things that is a part of sensory processing disorder.”

Enter the #MakeKidsCount campaign.

The Children’s Health Coalition is calling on Ontario leaders and candidates of all political parties to make children’s health a priority.

“Children and youth have had vital care delayed and have experienced devastating impacts,” says SickKids President and CEO Dr. Ronald Cohn. “Delaying access to care will have lifelong effects on tens of thousands of children across the province and their families.”

Two years of pandemic stress has had a big impact on youth, not only physically, but mentally too. 

“The pandemic increased the pressure the children’s health care system is facing and has also shone a light on the immediate need for government support to enable system-wide improvements,” Cohn said. “We need action now.”

To make kids count, the CHC wants the next government to commit to the following within its first 100 days in office:

Invest $1 billion over four years in the Make Kids Count Action Plan.

Convene a cross-sectoral children’s health summit with government, specialized children’s health care organizations, and health care providers to agree on principles for a long-term provincial Children’s Health Strategy.

Develop and release Ontario’s first-ever Children’s Health Strategy.

“Children need early interventions aligned with their developmental milestones to optimize physical, psychological, and social development,” says CHEO President and CEO Alex Munter. “Missing key opportunities to assess, care, treat or rehabilitate a child severely impacts the life of that child.”

The CHC says they hope candidates and leaders will see the benefits of putting kids health first and make the investments kids need and deserve, to help families like the Durocher’s.

“To have some sort of clinic that was closer to home,” says Durocher. “Whether it was stationed out of Pembroke or Petawawa, a little more central that we wouldn’t have to drive that hour and a half, two hours.”